Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Gen Con Is

Every year, before Gen Con Indy starts, I try to write a little piece that puts the readers as well as myself in the right frame of mind for Gen Con. I’ve likened it to Gamer Mecca, and the sense of wonder I feel every year as similar to the giant doors opening in Jurassic Park. It still fails to convey what Gen Con truly is like.

Try this: Indianapolis, one of the largest cities in the Midwest (and 14th-largest in the United States overall), is taken over for 4+ days by gamers. There are gamers in every downtown hotel, gaming in the lobbies 24/7. There are gamers in every downtown restaurant. The skyway network that links downtown Indianapolis together has continual gamer traffic. Walking down the street in the early morning hours, a group apparently comprised of elven warriors halts jovially at the crosswalk. Any open square of downtown Indy is the possible venue for a one-shot, card game, or swag count. Long after the exhibit hall closes for the day, Gen Con continues unabated.

And despite how very massive the entire business is, it feels like Home.

We come from all over. Some of us are professionals in the business, some of us your standard hobbyists. Some of us are staying in upscale hotels, some of us are washing up as best we can at a public bathroom after a night sleeping in a hallway. Some prefer quiet games with friends, others get blitzed and drunkenly game with complete strangers before passing out around 5:00 am. Some are keyed in to every release from small-press RPG companies, and others don’t know or care about a thing outside of D&D, circa 2 editions ago. It doesn't matter. No matter how eclectic your taste, someone there shares it. And you're all gamers alike.

But at Gen Con, you can still see the absolute diversity of the hobby. And for every storm cloud seen, there are a hundred legacies and futures still abounding. Beyond RPGs, the board games, PC games, foam weapon fighting, seminars, meetups, CCG tourneys, film festivals, impromptu games, old wargames, and junk vendors all add to the sum total of it all. You could spend two more weeks there, and still not see it all.

Gen Con Indy is where the new releases happen, where new deals are made, where old friends are reunited, where controversy breeds, where people meet their favorite authors, where you get waved into the exhibit hall by Imperial Stormtroopers, where you end up peeing next to a guy dressed up like Captain America, where people go from game to game to game with barely because they know the 4 days pass by all too quick. It’s where you meet the sort of people you didn’t think could exist (take that as you will).

For those four days every August, a “city on a hill” forms for gamers. It’s part of what makes Gen Con different from every other gaming convention out there. We find meaning in different places, as citizens of different aspects of that city. I love Gen Con, because I love my hobby and my gaming. It’s my sincere hope for you that one day you make it to Gen Con, whether you stay in luxury or crash on a floor, and enjoy the meaning you find there. Make the journey Home!


Jonathan Hicks said...

That's an excelletn piece and I'm sad that I won't be there, stuck as I am on the Isle of Rain and Mist (England). I've made it my aim to get to two huge conventions Stateside - Gen Con and Comic Con. My first target, though, is definitely Gen Con as RPGs are my primary hobby.

Here's hoping you have a great time and I look forward to reading reports so that I can gnash my teeth and lament the fact that I'm not there.

Oh... and have you been spying on me? '...others get blitzed and drunkenly game with complete strangers before passing out around 5:00 am'. :-)

Rob Lang said...

Well, Zach, that's a superb post and makes me want to blow the savings to pop across the pond. Like Jon, I'll be watching with great interest, so please keep us up to date!

Have a great time. :)

DNAphil said...

For me seeing the sign in the walkway, that welcomes you to the RCA Dome, always gives me a warm feeling, like coming home.

I also love that moment when the doors open on the floor for the first time and you slowly move forward until you enter the dealer's hall.

So ready to start this trip this year. Love seeing all my friends, that I only see at GenCon.

Mad Brew said...

@DNA Phil: Well, you might have to find a new sign to get your warm feeling, as the RCA Dome no longer exists.

Jason Richards said...

Wish I could be there this year.

My favorite part of running games or just visiting with fans at the booth at Gen Con is always the kids. You get the sense that these elementary school kids probably don't always fit in at school or in their daily lives (and at that age, who does, really?), but are totally comfortable among the geeks and cosplayers wandering the exhibit hall. There's nothing better than having a young gamer sit down at my table. I love watching the wide-eyed enthusiasm of someone whose imagination hasn't been dulled by taxes and a mortgage and the daily grind.

Have fun, everyone. I'm jealous of everyone that gets to be there.

seaofstarsrpg said...

Yes, the yearly gathering of our tribe.

Always fun to be reminded that there are a lot of people who love this hobby as much as you do.

Have a great time and drop by the AEG booth and say hi.


Olman Feelyus said...

Whoo! Inspiring. I'm tempted, very tempted. We'll see how 2010 shapes up. Maybe if The RPG Haven Podcast gets an ENnie nod... ;)

Zachary The First said...

Well, my advice would be not to wait to plan. If you do, you find a thousand reasons why not to go. Once you apply for your press badge, buy your events, make travel plans, or book your hotel, you can sort of keep yourself on the straight and narrow as far as going.

I’m hoping that there will be even more reasons to attend next year from this little corner of our hobby, but we will see!